I heard a few times from the people who visited Myanmar that the country is amazing, locals are the friendliest people ever, but the food…well…it’s not something that they would go back for. I agree – a lot of dishes might be very oily. In fact, at the beginning I didn’t find it delicious. It took me a while, but few places really blew my mind and I kept coming back there. In Hpa-an we found only one traditional Burmese restaurant while the rest were mostly Chinese or Indian. In traditional restaurants, when you order a fish or meat curry, you will get a plate of fresh vegetables, T’ămìn (rice), soup and different bowls with dips, like ngăpí ye (a watery, fishy dip) or balachaung (a dry combination of chillies, garlic and dried shrimp fried in oil). There is also unlimited tea. While travelling in Myanmar you will realize how much Burmese love this beverage – I guess the leftover after English colonialism.
Once I discovered ăthouq – salads made with raw vegetables tossed with lime juice, peanuts, roasted chickpea powder and chillies, I couldn’t get enough of them. My favourite was leq-p’eq thouq and I loved it so much that I was ready to give up my cold beer for it! 🙂 It is fermented tea leaves mixed with a combination of nuts, fried peas, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, dried shrimp, fried garlic and other crunchy ingredients. Burmese people say that it is like coffee – if you eat too much, you won’t be able to sleep as tea leaves are like an energizer. I also loved salad with tomatoes and peanuts. Other popular salads were: maji-yweq thouq, made with young tamarind leaves, and shauq-thi thouq – lemon salad.
Noodles are very common in Myanmar to eat for breakfast. The most popular dish calls moún-hìn-gà (mohinga) – thin rice noodles served in a thick fish-shallots broth and topped with crispy deep-fried veggies or lentils. We got it in Bago train station for breakfast while waiting for our train to Taungoo and I still remember that taste. Maybe it was the magic of the early morning, where we could watch the town slowly waking up and perhaps because we were the only tourists there and the people in the restaurant were so friendly and curious.
In Kalaw and Inle Lake we could try Shan style food. The first one that we ate and loved was Shàn k’auq-swèh (Shan-style noodle soup), thin rice noodles in a light broth with chunks of chicken or pork, tossed with nuts.
Another common dish over there is k’auq sen -Shan-style rice noodles with curry and meat. You can also see that on the tables there are often baskets of maung jeut – big rice crackers.
Burmese Tea/Coffee shops serve not only milky tea, but also different kind of dishes as well as snacks. It’s also a great place to sit down, especially in the morning, meet the locals and watch their daily routine. When we arrived to Bagan and it was only after the sunrise, they were just opening all the tea shops. After a short while they were full of locals. We got a strong coffee, together with different kinds of savoury snacks and noodle soup. Everything was so delicious.
Burmese people are very kissable and it is not because everybody throw their arms around you. It is about the noises that they make to get somebody attention. 🙂 If you want to call waiting staff, you should make a loud kissing sound – not many people will react for “excuse me”, which we found out very quick. Another thing – the power cuts are very common in Myanmar, so don’t be surprise, if suddenly everything will be plunged into darkness. Usually restaurants have a generators but it might take a while so just enjoy your meal anyway. 🙂
Our favourite restaurants while travelling in Myanmar
- Lucky 1 – more Chinese then Burmese, but we really liked it because of the atmosphere, good selection of dishes and drinks.
- San Ma Tau Myanmar Restaurant – our first experience with traditional Burmese food. Very friendly staff and delicious food. Selection of rich curries accompanied by plates of fresh veggies, herbs and around 10 other bowls with local dips.
- Veranda Youth Community Cafe – It is not just an ordinary cafe. It is supported by the Ministry of Czech Republic and it is providing a space for local people and visitors to share and exchange knowledge and experience, while promoting local products, environmental protection and awareness and practicing responsible consumption. Did I mention about their delicious vegetarian food and the best coffee in Hpa-an?
- Pyae Pyae Shan Noodle – our number 1 restaurant in Kalaw. They serve delicious bowls of Shan style soups and noodles. Friendly staff, delicious and very cheap food.
- Thu Maung Restaurant – traditional Burmese restaurant, where they serve curries coupled with delicious dips, sides, pickles and vegetables.
- Hi Snack & Drink- tiny place, where in the evenings locals come to play on the guitar and drink some whiskey. 🙂 Good fun guaranteed!
Nyaungshwe ( Inle Lake )
- Sin Yaw Restaurant – We found this restaurant by chance but were so happy we stumbled upon it! All staff members are super friendly and happy and the food is unbelievable. Definitely the best food we’ve had in Myanmar. Everything is fresh and healthy, good selection of dishes. We went there so often that Kevin even got a t-shirt as a present from them. 🙂 It was the first time I’ve tried tea leaf salad and it was delicious. They also have a fish from the lake prepared in many different ways.
- Moe Pyae San Vegetarian Restaurant – This little, simple restaurant serves delicious food and it’s very cheap too (around 1 dollar for a meal). Good selection of Burmese style salads, rice and noodles dishes, fresh juices and shakes. My favourite was tomato and fermented tea leaf salad. They serve cold Myanmar beer too. 😉